I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that what I wanted to do was impossible.
When we began our non-profit for training assistance dogs for the disabled, nobody had ever heard of such a dog here. Yet everyone was ready to tell us we’re nuts, that in this country, we’ll never be able to do it or raise enough funds. Since then, we provided over 140 top-trained dogs, with annual turnover of around 350,000 USD.
A friend once voiced her concerns about all the things she’d like to accomplish by the time she’s thirty or forty. It wasn’t until then that I realized I have no such urges. I feel no need to prove myself, because I’ve already done ‘the impossible’ so many times it became commonplace. If you think that’s bragging, then so be it. The point I’m trying to make is that if you let your circumstances or others’ opinions stop you, it’s simply a choice…your choice.
The Michael Jackson Legacy
As a teenager, I had no access to a car to take me to a Michael Jackson concert in Germany, so I organized a bus trip for forty kids to go along. The closest town they’d sell us tickets was Bremen. Having grown up listening to Michael’s music from illegally smuggled tapes, this was not only a dream-come-true, but something formerly impossible to come true.
Then I met my disabled friends and, for them, many of the things we took for granted weren’t possible, but only due to their physical disabilities. We took them beyond the walls of institutions, carried wheelchairs up and down thousands of steps and had a lot of fun doing it all – seemingly the ultimate shock to a post-communist society. Many adults had literally never seen a disabled person before. Many mothers covered the eyes of their children so they wouldn’t stare. We dared being stared at. These days, one of those friends runs a non-profit enabling the disabled to enjoy extreme sports – white-water rafts and motorcycles! The above picture is him rappelling the wall of the Congress Center. Talk about daring!
My charity projects are direct results of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror – “Take a look at yourself and make that change.” And I see the social shifts already. For the past decade, I’ve been lecturing and writing on the subject of animal-assisted therapies, which were initially received very skeptically by both officials and the medical community. Recently I wrote an educational article for the Slovak Medical Chamber – and I’m not a health-care professional! They asked for it, because they wanted their doctors to better understand this field. Somehow that tide is turning as well. The people I help train tend to have results where traditional medicine doesn’t – they’re doing the impossible on daily basis.
My Two Worlds
I’m surrounded by two groups of people. My Czech colleagues and friends who were always unstoppable. They are successful in their own ways, not because they’re Czech but despite being Czech. They continue doing what the rest of this society considers impossible and think nothing of it. It’s who they are, but they get precious little encouragement. I can’t even conceive of the wonderful things they might do if they actually received some support for a change, if everything didn’t have to be an uphill struggle.
The other group is foreigners living in the Czech Republic, who are mostly from artistic circles. These are what you might consider personal friends, but they feel more like family, unusual to begin with for having left their home and setting off to explore the world. Perhaps because they are ‘all on the same boat,’ the ex-pat community tends to be amazingly supportive and nourishing.
There’s a Better Way
My ex-pat friends have done the impossible not just by leaving their home country, but by proving that there is a better way. It’s possible to both give and receive encouragement, to erase the boundaries of age, religion, nationality, cultural background, sexual orientation or any other barrier you can imagine.
In fact, we embrace our differences and learn from each other. This is not some vague promotional speech for globalization, it’s my daily reality. In ‘my world,’ it’s not only commonplace for people to do the impossible, but people around them no longer use the term. This has probably been the biggest blessing in my life.